Sunday, January 09, 2005
The Verve of the West
Indeed. But read the whole thing.
...[T]he most striking photograph of this disaster, [is from] AFP's Jimin Lai. I haven't seen it in any of the papers, oddly enough. It shows a tsunami-devastated village in Galle on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka: a couple of rescuers are carrying away a body while, behind them, smack dab in the centre of the picture, a young man looks on. He's wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt.
I gave up worrying "Why do they hate us?" on the evening of September 11, 2001. But, if I were that Osodden bin Loser guy watching the infidels truck in water, food, medical supplies and emergency clothing for villagers whose jihad-chic T-shirt collection was washed out to sea, I might ask myself a more pertinent question: "Why do they like us?"
The path of the tsunamis tracked the arc of the Muslim world, from Sumatra to Somalia; the most devastated country is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and the most devastated part of that country is the one province living under the strictures of sharia.
But, as usual, when disaster strikes it's the Great Satan and his various Little Satans who leap to respond. In the decade before September 11, the US military functioned, more or less exclusively, as a Muslim rapid reaction force – coming to the aid of Kuwaiti Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Somali Muslims and Albanian Muslims. Since then, with the help of its Anglo-Australian allies, it's liberated 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That's not how the West's anti-war movements see it. I found myself behind a car the other day bearing the bumper sticker, "War Is Costly. Peace Is Priceless" – which is standard progressive generic autopilot boilerplate, that somehow waging war and doing good are mutually exclusive. But you can't help noticing that when disaster strikes, it's the warmongers who are also the compassion-mongers. Of the top six donor nations to tsunami relief, four are members of George W. Bush's reviled "coalition of the willing".
What was it the Romans said? "If you seek peace, prepare for war." It's truer than they know. It's because Australia's prepared for war that it can do all the feelgood humanitarian stuff – such as landing 10 army engineers in Banda Aceh to attach a mobile filtration system to the decrepit mains pipes and thereby not merely restore the water supply but improve it....
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